One late afternoon at Nickerson Beach in Nassau County, New York, Johann Schumacher dug his knees into the sand and pointed his camera toward the light as the sun settled into the mantle of the horizon. He wanted to capture a monochromatic image of a sundrenched skimmer. A string of fire appeared just as he took the shot—an illusion created by the bird's mandible slicing through the water.
Schumacher has been photographing skimmer colonies for years, and has written about them as well. His experience with the birds has allowed him to learn to anticipate their flight patterns in different conditions. High tide and a heavy downpour were two essential ingredients for his photo. The deluge of water created shallow pools in the beach, perfect for nesting birds and those photographing them. Schumacher's target, the black skimmers, glided in between the pools in a display that he calls "elegant, aerial acrobatics."
This image was a Top 100 photo from the 2013 Audubon Magazine Photography Awards. To see all of the photos, click here.